A new wave of Republican lawmakers barged into office after the 2010 elections on promises of fiscal responsibility and a reigning in of government spending. Jobs. The economy. Econo-jobs. While everyone was Tea Partying their pants off and puking star spangled vomit into the potted plants, eager for the tax breaks that never came, newly-elected conservatives wasted no time to get to what they were really after: women's reproductive rights. And it turns out that attacking birth control and abortion rights is a really great way to totally fuck the economy up.
It doesn't take a genius to understand the simple logic and math involved here — paying for a monthly pack of pills is much cheaper for employers and the government than paying for pregnancy care, delivery, and subsequent health care of the child resulting from a preventable and unplanned pregnancy. Analysis by the nonpartisan National Business Group on Health found that it costs an employer, on average, $39 to cover the cost of birth control for a female employee for an entire year and that employers that cover contraception save an average of $9,000 per female employee for every two years that employee doesn't become pregnant. Pretty good numbers.
Unplanned pregnancies are expensive to the government as well, and we're not just talking pocket change. According to the Guttmacher institute, Uncle Sam shells out about $11 billion per year to care for women who are pregnant and didn't plan to be and their resulting children. In the state of Oklahoma, where legislators have prioritized restricting abortion, 70% of women with unplanned pregnancies rely on Medicaid to pay for prenatal treatment and delivery costs. This costs the state $55.6 million per year and the federal government $117.6 million. That's several times more than NPR gets from the government every year. Another way to look at this that will make you feel depressed: every year, unplanned pregnancies in the state of Oklahoma cost the federal government about 1/3 of the total amount of money the government gives to all of Planned Parenthood. And Oklahoma's not even the worst offender.
In addition to benefitting states and businesses, widespread availability of affordable contraception and safe abortion benefits women financially as well. Children, for as heartbreakingly cute and wonderful as they are, cost money. And mothers with children both planned and unplanned make economic sacrifices in order to raise them. When children are unplanned, though, women tend to be less likely to have their ducks in a row and may forego higher education, a move that dooms them to a lifetime of lower earning potential and a worse quality of life than if they'd waited for kids until they were ready. But, judging by their apparent callousness to the needs of women, conservative lawmakers probably give zero fucks about this
Obviously, looking at pregnancy and childbirth as purely a dollars and cents is an oversimplification of a complex issue. Women shouldn't be shamed for choosing to have children. But states should absolutely be shamed for limiting women's access to birth control, and conservative legislators should be brought to task on this. Claiming fiscal responsibility while actively working to limit women's access to reproductive health care is the economic equivalent of saying you're going to spend less money on gasoline and buying a Hummer before a cross country road trip. It's self-defeating.
A "fiscally responsible" government should do everything in its power to ensure that women are able to plan how many children they have, and avoid having children when they don't feel prepared to raise them. But pesky things like facts and numbers have no place in the magical mental fantasy mental gymnasium occupied by pro-life fiscal conservatives.